The new film “Gangsters Squad” is a dip back into the old-fashioned mob versus cops genre, with nostalgic production qualities and a muscular cast touting Sean Penn as the fable mobster, Mickey Cohen. The script of “Gangster Squad” is very loosely based on true events, and inaccurately portrays several important elements, including why Cohen was finally sentenced to the big house. But Penn’s acting, the best in this cast, gives the story real muscle.
Josh Brolin plays a LAPD detective who is asked to recruit and lead a renegade, off-the-books group of plain clothes cops who will go after Cohen any way that is necessary to stop his rapid growth of criminal activities in Los Angeles. Cohen is paying off most of the police force, judges and anyone else who will support his nefarious activities.
Brolin’s team is varied and nicely chosen, with different and complimentary skills. The most interesting is Ryan Gosling’s character, a free-spirit womanizer who decides to become romantically involved with Cohen’s best girl, played by Emma Stone.
Nick Nolte plays Chief Parker, the new Chief of Police in Los Angeles who is not on Cohen’s payroll and is determined to bring him down.
Sean Penn carries the movie as Mickey Cohen, the sadistic ex-boxer who is, at heart, a power-hungry thug.
Emma Stone looks accurate as Cohen’s main squeeze, right down her red hair, although in real life their relationship was not as portrayed in the film.
Set in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, “Gangster Squad” lives up to its promise of machine gun murders and violent fire power. The motion picture has the look and feel of the era and Brolin is good as the leader of the group out to put Cohen behind bars. A lot of liberties are taken with the true story, and the script can be predictable and even pedestrian at times, but the actions works and so does this movie as a bloody good time for escapist film buffs who like their entertainment a lot on the nostalgic side.